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From Ningbo to the world: China’s port city evolving into global opening-up hub


NINGBO, China, Mar. 28, 2024 /Xinhua-AsiaNet/–

For many people, the city of Ningbo may not sound as well-known as metropolis such as Beijing and Shanghai in China, but it may be closer to the daily life: the Chinese-made hardware tools, rice cookers and even new energy vehicles people bought are very likely to travel across the ocean from this Chinese city in east China’s Zhejiang Province.

The high probability of this trade link comes from Ningbo’s unique port status, according to Information Office of Municipal Government of Ningbo. 

In the Ningbo-Zhoushan Port which faces the East China Sea, ships with a maximum carrying weight of 300,000 tonnes can come and go freely, and super ships with a maximum carrying weight above 400,000 tonnes can enter and exit with the tide. It is a rare outstanding deep-water port in the world.

Last year, the throughput of the port reached 1.324 billion tonnes, ranking first in the world for 15 consecutive years, and its container throughput ranked third worldwide. It’s also home to the largest iron ore terminal in China, the largest crude oil terminal in Asia and the second largest single container terminal on earth.

Ningbo has been an important trading center since ancient times. As early as the Tang Dynasty, Ningbo was one of the starting points of the Maritime Silk Road. In modern times, Ningbo was one of the five treaty ports open to foreign trade. After 1978, Ningbo was among the country’s first coastal cities to embrace the country’s reform and opening-up campaign.

Today, Ningbo is connected with more than 60 Chinese cities through sea-rail intermodal transport, and has access to more than 600 ports in over 200 countries and regions with the help of 300-plus container routes. It has become an important port and shipping logistics center, strategic resource allocation hub and modern shipping service base in the world.

In late 2023, Ningbo was approved to extend the opening up to all its eight port areas, adding new momentum to the Ningbo-Zhoushan Port’s sprint to be a world-class top port.

Unique port resources endow Ningbo with prowess to connect with the rest of the world, but the city’s opening-up and enterprising moves not only target improving the throughput capacity of the world’s largest port, but also seeking wider connectivity, deeper-level exchanges and higher-level opening-up.

Now Ningbo is building a world-class air-rail integration hub and a new engine of international open development by further optimizing the transport planning of its western region.

It is estimated that in 2050, the passenger transport capacity of Ningbo’s west transport hub will reach about 220 million passengers per year, and the air cargo volume will reach 3 million tonnes annually, which will help Ningbo become a modern coastal metropolis.

Among the international destinations accessible to Ningbo, the Central and Eastern European countries (CEEC) along the Belt and Road Initiative are the bright spots for deepening global economic cooperation and trade exchanges.

Ningbo started to hold exhibitions to promote trade with the CEEC in 2014, and established the first and only demonstration zone for economic cooperation and trade exchanges between China and CEEC in 2017. In 2019, the China-CEEC Expo was upgraded to a national-level international event.

Thanks to a good business environment, a strong digital economy foundation and a unique port logistics hub system, Ningbo’s cross-border e-commerce has seen fast growth, with an increasingly wider and denser digital trade network.

Ningbo has maintained the first place in the country’s cross-border e-commerce retail imports during China’s largest online shopping festival “Double 11” for seven consecutive years. The city’s online purchase bonded business in cross-border e-commerce accounts for nearly a quarter of the Chinese market, and its overseas warehouse area accounts for 1/6 of the country’s total. In March last year, the first fifth-freedom freight air route in Zhejiang was opened in Ningbo, lending strong steam to the growth of the city’s cross-border e-commerce business.

In September 2020, the Ningbo Area of Zhejiang Free Trade Pilot Zone was officially listed, opening a new chapter of institutional opening in the city.

For example, aiming at the circulation security and data security of international trade of bulk commodities, Ningbo launched the digital service platform “TradeGo” to ensure the uniqueness and authenticity of digital documents through blockchain technology. The platform has become one of the only 10 recognized platforms for electronic bill of lading in the world.

The open environment and enterprising culture have not only shaped Ningbo’s extensive foreign trade network, but also sharpened the innovation edge of a strong manufacturing city in a global market with open competition.

Ningbo has 104 national single-product champion enterprises in the manufacturing industry, the largest number among Chinese cities and far exceeding Shenzhen, which ranks second. Many of their products bring first-class Chinese manufacturing to global consumers via the Ningbo-Zhoushan Port.

Looking ahead, Ningbo aims to build an international opening-up hub city.

According to Ningbo’s plan, by 2026, the Ningbo-Zhoushan Port’s cargo throughput is expected to maintain the top spot in the world, and the number of enterprises with an annual trade value of over 10 million U.S. dollars and foreign investment projects with a total investment of more than 100 million U.S. dollars, among others, will double compared with 2021.

From a port city to an international hub for trade, Ningbo is set to make its mark on the global map.